Steering Column: Airbag Clockspring
A clockspring is part of the airbag restraint system. It's in the steering column behind the steering wheel and maintains an electrical connection to the airbag and the accessories located in the steering wheel.
It contains a spring that carries current and expands and contracts as the steering wheel is rotated. As long as the clockspring provides a connection to the steering wheel components, the airbag light remains unlit, and all is well.
Clocksprings wear in time or become damaged during repairs to the steering column, or when removing a rack and pinion gear, gearbox, or coupling. If the steering wheel is allowed to spin freely, the clockspring's connection may break, resulting in an open circuit and an illuminated airbag light. Replacing the clockspring restores the circuit and removes the ABS warning light.
Holding the steering wheel with a steering wheel brace or even the seat belt keeps the wheel from spinning and breaking this fragile connection. It can only spin so far before it breaks. This open in the circuit results in an amber airbag light. Before replacing a gearbox, rack, or coupling check the manufacturer's service manual for special instructions, TSB's, and specifications.